That is exactly how both today's and yesterday's runs felt. And I can't continue this post without giving credit where credit is do. AKA shouting out the the amazing Kelly Roberts and her sports psychologist uncle Dr. Bob. I recently listening to a podcast where Kelly, who by the way is training to qualify for the Boston marathon (which is happening/already happened today!), talked to Dr. Bob about some of her mental struggles when it comes both to pushing herself in running and to enjoying the process...especially when it comes to particularly long or hard workouts.
I'll admit, when I first heard about using the word "effortless" to describe running it seemed almost laughable to me. Because, well, it's hard to conjure up any moment in my running journey where things really, truly felt effortless. I didn't feel like I was quite at that place with running where I would be able to mentally or physically get to a point in any run where things felt that natural/easy/perfect in a sense. Like you could go on and on at your present pace, even if that pace is sort of fast/hard and you feel like you might puke or fall to pieces at any moment.
Enter Sunday's run...the last run of week 4 of half-marathon training. I knew I had to run 6 miles yesterday in order to get to 25 miles for the week...which has sort of been my goal for when it comes to treadmill running thus far. I also wanted to make sure I was running at least 6 miles once a week for my farthest long runs. So, I went in ready to crush 6 miles. I had foam rolled/stretched/iced and done everything possible to prepare for that run. I had the perfect playlist all cued up. Then, before I was even 2 miles in I got panicky.
I questioned why I wasn't running faster, and why running slow (6 mph) felt so hard. I really desperately wanted to stop at the 3 mile mark. I told myself there was no way in heck 6 miles was going to happen the way I feeling in that moment. However, I gently reminded myself to just run the mile that I was in and not focus so much on how far I had left to go. Instead, I worked to run tall with good form, and really get into the Demi Lovato music I had blaring from my Ipod.
And by mile 4 the craziest thing happened, RUNNING FELT EFFORTLESS. One minute here I was driving the struggle bus and the next I know for damn sure I am not stopping until I hit 6 miles. It was like a switch somewhere inside of me flipped and all of a sudden I was enjoying this icky treadmill run more than ever. My legs had finally seemed to find their stride...and I literally felt like I could hold the pace I was at all day. I even bumped up the speed a little during my last mile, and was able to finish in 59:18.
It was in the hours following that run that I realized something when it came to this whole "effortless" thing and running. It is so much more than just a mantra. It's a mindset...an attitude...and most importantly: a way to approach the hard/scary stuff that actually requires a whole shit ton of effort. It's not about making running look/feel easy. It's instead all about convincing your mind (and yourself) that it's not as hard as it feels. And, when you're able to do that, for just a brief moment...things will feel effortless. Like, you're a professional runner and this is just a measly, no pressure run.
So, with this new insight, I completely changed my approach going into today's run. Typically, I would have just settled for 4 miles at an easy 10 minute mile pace. After all, I did have that really good, break through of a run yesterday in addition to a heavy leg day. My body just couldn't possibly handle running a semi-fast 4 miles today. WRONG. I eased into things for that first mile and then once I knew my legs could handle it I kicked ass, took names, and ran those 4 miles in 38:39 (9:40 pace)! And you better believe that whole time I just kept telling myself how effortless it was and how much fun I was having.
Now that we have officially completed one month of half-marathon training I have to say, things are going better than I thought they would. I haven't yet found myself making excuses, cutting runs short, or skipping out on rest days. I have certainly had moments where I felt like WTF AM I DOING ATTEMPTING TO RUN 13.1 MILES. And I assume everyone goes through something similar when they chase running goals like this one. However, in those moments I just remind myself of how good that first 7 mile run felt last fall. And then how strong/bad ass I felt after my first 9 miler...and how fucking amazing it's going to feel crossing that finish line in September after completing 13.1 miles.
Ironically, aside from finishing and not getting lost/injured/passing out somewhere along the course, my time goal is to finish in 2 hours and 11 minutes (or less). I made this my goal, because it represents the exact weight I was at during my freshman year of high school...first semester. 211 pounds. And now, just a short 7+ years later...here we are. Tackling impossible goals and not knowing/caring how much I weigh. Like, I legit have not stepped on a scale since before Christmas break and my Vegas trip.
So, if you see me out and about running, whether I have a smile on my face (which is rare but does happen) or I look like I'm about to burst into tears, just know that I am having fun and enjoying myself on some level...and getting one step closer towards making running effortless. Also, maybe pretend like you don't really see me because let's be real: nobody enjoys running around for 7-9 miles and knowing that everyone saw them, blood, sweat, tears, snot, and all!